Skip to main content

tv   The News Hour With Jim Lehrer  PBS  July 6, 2009 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT

6:00 pm
macneil/lehrer productions >> lehrer: good evening, i'm jim lehrer. on the newshour this tuesday, the lead story: is the moscow summit where presidents obama' and medvedev reached agreement on nuclear weapons and more. then, the other news of the day, including deadly violence and rioting in northwestern china; the latest on the power standoff in honduras; a media unit look at the washington post's apology for a now withdrawn pay-for- access proposal; and some perspective on vietnam era defense secretary robert
6:01 pm
mcnamara who died today. major funding for the newshour with jim lehrer is provided by: >> the world is changing, and how we use energy today cannot be how we use it tomorrow. there is no one solution. it's not simply more oil, more renewables or being more efficient. it's all of it. our way of life depends on developing all forms of energy, and to use less of it.
6:02 pm
it's time to put our differences aside. will you be part of the solution? chevron, human energy. the national science foundation. supporting education and research across all fields of science and engineering. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> lehrer: president obama moved to "re-set" u.s. relations with russia today. he journeyed to moscow to push for progress on nuclear weapons and missile defense. judy woodruff has our lead story report.
6:03 pm
>> woodruff: mr. obama's visit to moscow marked the first u.s.- russia summit in seven years. he began by laying a wreath at russia's tomb of the unknown soldier. ♪ then, it was on to the kremlin to meet with russian president dmitri medvedev. the pair emerged later to report they're trying for a new era of good will after recent years of rocky relations. >> the president and i agreed that the relationship between russia and the united states has suffered from a sense of drift. we resolved to reset u.s.- russian relations so that we can cooperate more effectively in areas of common interest. >> ( translated ): this is the first, but very important, step in the process of improving full-scale cooperation between our two countries, which should go to the benefit of both states.
6:04 pm
>> woodruff: to that end, the leaders announced a joint understanding for a follow-on treaty to "start" the strategic arms reduction treaty. it's due to expire in december. the new goal is to cut strategic warheads to 1,500 to 1,675 on each side from the current maximum of 2,200. the two nations also committed to cutting delivery systems to 500 to 1,100 a side. right now, the limit is 1,600. president medvedev said it's also important to work together on preventing other countries from gaining nuclear weapons. >> ( translated ): there are regions around the world where the presence of nuclear arms would create huge problems. and these are areas where we should concentrate our efforts, together with our american partners. >> woodruff: medvedev did not directly name iran, but mr. obama did, when it came turn for
6:05 pm
his response. >> in the middle east, there is deep concern about iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons capability, not simply because of one country wanting nuclear weapons, but the fact that if iran obtained nuclear weapons, it is an almost, it is almost certain that other countries in the region would then decide to pursue their own programs. and we would then see a nuclear arms race in perhaps the most volatile part of the world. >> woodruff: the u.s. has cited that threat as justification for placing a missile defense system in eastern europe. but russia opposes any such plan, and there was no official resolution today. >> the difference that we've had has been on the specifics of a missile defense system that the united states views as a
6:06 pm
priority not to deal with russia but to deal with a missile coming in from iran or north korea or some other state, and that it's important for the united states and its allies to have the capacity to prevent such a strike. >> woodruff: medvedev called it a "difficult area", but he suggested there might be progress. >> ( translated ): we talk about the linkage between offensive and defensive weapons. and this already constitutes a step forward. sometime ago, on this question, we had all only differences. now this linkage is being stated, and this opens up the opportunity of bringing positions closer to each other. >> woodruff: the russians also agreed today to allow use of their airspace to transport u.s.
6:07 pm
troops and equipment to afghanistan. tomorrow, president obama is scheduled to sit down with vladimir putin, russia's former president and current prime minister. margaret warner is covering the story for u.s. in moscow. i spoke with her a little while ago. did the u.s. get what it wanted and expected on arms control? >> warner: judy, they didn't get quite as low numbers as they'd hope in terms of reducing long-range missiles an their launchers. but we're told that as of last -- late last week they had no firm agreement on even announcing any targets. and that president obama talked to president medvedev on the phone and that's how they even got these numbers. which are roughly about a 30% cut in missiles and -- no, i think 25% in missiles and 30% in launchers. president obama did come
6:08 pm
here with the white house hoping that in his one-on-one with president medvedev he would be able to persuade president medvedev to drop the numbers even lower. that did not happen. but all in all i would say that the u.s. side is pleased with the commitment and pleased also with the relationship that seems to have developed in negotiations. and they stressed to us that the first start treaty took nine years to negotiate. so really that the proling res they've made just in a few months is quite remarkable. >> woodruff: and what about on the russian side, did they get what they wanted on missile defense? >> warner: president medvedev said he had agreement with president obama that missile defense and missile offense are linked. president obama said theoretically yes, of course they are, but that when you are talking about this european defense system that the u.s. wants to try to set up in some fashion, that that is just way too modest to be of any threat to russia's nuclear capability.
6:09 pm
what apparently in their one-on-one which well over an hour, and in fact it went quite long, it went about an hour and a half, longer than they expected, it really focused on missile defense, which they agreed to do a threat assessment of the danger posed by missiles in the region. and two, iran. and that the two were totally linked. and at one point president medvedev though he never let the word iran pass his lips at the press conference did say, did speak about the concern of the growing missile threat in the region and the nuclear threat. and he talked about countries it that want to join the nuclear club or he said worse are pursuing it clan de -- clandestinely which was a pretty clear reference to iran. >> woodruff: and margaret, the afghanistan agreement. what do u.s. officials say is significant about that? >> warner: they are very pleased by this agreement. this agreed, judy, will allow the u.s. to at the present time not just what they -- transport not just
6:10 pm
letal, which the russians already announced a couple days ago they were going to do but troops. and that means that u.s. forces can fly from germany into afghanistan through russian air space. what's more, i'm told by one of the president's aides, the russians are going to really relax all their usual kind of bureaucratic paperwork requirements of knowing who is on the manifest and checking it out. i mean they still will have the ability to do that on a case-by-case basis if they want toment but essentially they're going to be very accommodating about it. finally they are actually going to pay these quote navigation fees which usually the u.s. would have to pay to i guess air-traffic controlers on the ground. the russians are actually going to absorb that cost. the other thing that is significant about their cooperation on afghanistan as it goes beyond the transit, they're talking about working together to build, you know, a more modern society as president medvedev describes it in
6:11 pm
afghanistan and president obama as you may know did talk about perhaps the russians can help in training the afghan army or police. so bottom line is the russians have gone from being obstacles at times as they were earlier this year when they persuaded another former republic to close its air base to the u.s. in the region and now are seeing themselves as coop rative partners in the afghanistan effort. >> woodruff: but quickly there are still some sticking points between the two leaders on other issues? >> absolutely. and i think that that was conveyed by their tone. they talked about wanting to cooperate in a lot of things. they also talked about the fact that they still have major differences. president obama mentioned georgia in particular. and they have agreed to disagree and to continue discussing that. so i would say that tonewise too it was telling that though president obama said he certainly trusted
6:12 pm
president medvedev to negotiate and stick to his agreements, there was none of the gushiness, there was no looking into anyone's soul and deciding they can work together. they really emphasized this is a businesslike relationship. tone was cordial but very business like. and these difference does remain. >> woodruff: and finally tell us what is on tap for tomorrow, the meeting with putin. >> warner: well that's, of course, everyone is awaiting that eagerly. president obama and prime minister putin who we slipped and called president putin once today before catching himself, i would say what is really important with the meeting with prime minister putin tomorrow is it will be the first chance for president obama to take his measure of the man. they've never met before. and i think that above all that's the most important thing about that meeting. >> woodruff: margaret warner covering the summit for us in moscow. thanks. >> warner: thanks, judy. >> lehrer: in other news today, seven u.s. troops were killed in attacks across afghanistan. it was the deadliest day in nearly a year.
6:13 pm
six americans were killed in roadside bombings in the north and in the south, near where u.s. marines are waging a major offensive. another died in clashes with insurgents in the eastern part of the country. meanwhile, the taliban confirmed capturing a u.s. soldier last week. there were no details on what the militants will do with him. ethnic riots across western china have now claimed at least 156 lives. violence erupted on sunday in the capital city of xinjiang province. in addition to the dead, more than 800 people were hurt. we have a report narrated by lindsey hilsum of independent television news. >> reporter: mobs on the streets of urumqi, groups of youths who hate chinese rule. yesterday several thousand people from the muslim uighur minority went on the rampage, they say they face discrimination, and they took out their anger on the han.
6:14 pm
the han are the dominant ethnic group in china, but regarded as colonialists by many uighurs who would like a separate state. this han woman was kicked and stoned, the hospitals are full of injured, government says more than 800 people were hurt, some badly, mostly beaten with sticks or stabbed by youths with knives. >> ( translated ): it seemed like they were in groups of more than ten. there was no chance to say anything. they just came up and attacked you. >> ( translated ): they didn't really talk to you. when they saw a han person coming along, they started to attack. or when a bus came along, they started to attack. >> reporter: the story starts ten days ago, in a factory in southern china, fighting broke out between uighurs and han after a han accused a uighur man of rape. the allegation is believed to be untrue, but several uighurs were lynched nonetheless. the horrifying pictures shot by mobile phone were seen by
6:15 pm
uighurs back home in urumqi. the students held what was initially a peaceful demonstration demanding an inquiry. the chinese government is blaming exileed uighur separatist force the violence which follows. >> the forces from inside and outside >> ( translated ): the 'three forces' from inside and outside of china aggressively operated to attack china's communist party and the government. they also incited people up to carry out demonstrations in the city. >> reporter: today the han were counting the cost. their government encouraged them to move to xinjiang province, to make urumqi a chinese rather than a uighur city. it's not clear whether the violence was one-sided or whether uighurs were also killed by government forces.
6:16 pm
the chinese government will see such unrest age the large death toll as a major challenge not only to its authority but to its sovereignty. >> lehrer: the u.s. reacted to the situation late today. a white house statement called for all parties in western china to "exercise restraint". members of the u.n. security council talked today about responding to north korea's latest move. on saturday, the north koreans defied the u.n. and fired seven mid-range ballistic missiles into the sea of japan. the missiles have the range to strike all of south korea and most of japan. in mexico, the major opposition party, p.r.i., pledged to enact economic reforms. it defeated the ruling conservative party in mid-term congressional elections yesterday. the vote was a test of president calderon's efforts to boost the economy and halt drug violence. the pri, called the pree, ruled mexico for decades until it lost the presidency in 2000.
6:17 pm
general motors will be able to sell the bulk of its assets to a a federal bankruptcy judge ruled late sunday the sale is in the best interests of both g.m. and its creditors. an appeal was expected by people who have sued g.m. in auto accident cases. under the bankruptcy plan, the government will be majority owner of the new g.m. wall street had a mixed day. the dow jones industrial average gained 44 points to close above 8324. but the nasdaq fell 9 points to close at 1787. and oil prices hit a five-week low, falling to $64 a barrel in new york trading. gasoline prices also fell again to a national average of $2.61 a gallon. >> lehrer: and still to come on
6:18 pm
the newshour tonight: the washington post says sorry; and remembering robert mcnamara. that follows gwen ifill and the latest on the standoff in honduras. >> ifill: the main airport in tegucigalpa remained closed today, after the deposed president attempted to land there last evening. manuel zelaya's plane circled the skies of the capital, but was forced to divert after soldiers blocked the runway. supporters of zelaya, who was forced out last sunday, lit fires and hurled rocks. a 19 year old protestor was killed. last night, zelaya, who ultimately landed in el salvador, met with regional leaders and denounced the violence. >> ( translated ): in the name of god, soldiers of honduras, policemen, in the name of god, i ask you, i beg you and i command you: do not repress the honduran people any longer.
6:19 pm
>> ifill: the secretary general of the organization of american states, who escorted zelaya to central america, said he wanted peaceful negotiations. >> ( translated ): i want to say that as oas secretary general i'm a ready to go forward with all the diplomatic work necessary to obtain our goal. our goal is not to an act of intervention, our goal is to comply with the norms that all countries freely adopted. >> ifill: yesterday, honduras' acting president roberto micheletti said he was willing to work with the o.a.s. but, he insisted, zelaya broke the law, and will face consequences. >> ( translated ): i believe there is time to think about, to have a dialogue, to solve this problem and at the right time he will take the decision to come back and turn himself in so the right authorities can decide the right thing to do with former president zelaya. >> ifill: a state department spokesman said the u.s. is still committed to zelaya's reinstatement.
6:20 pm
our goal remains the restoration of democratic, the democratic order in honduras, and we renew our call on all political and social actors in honduras to find a peaceful solution to this crisis. >> ifill: secretary of state hillary clinton is scheduled to meet with the ousted honduran leader this week in washington. for more on the situation we are joined in honduras by marc lacey, he covers central america for "the new york times". marc, bring us up to date with what is happening. >> good to be with you. so yesterday was just a stunning day, a really dramatic day. i was at the airport. there were thousands of supporters of the ousted president there. and all of a sudden a plane appeared, a charter plane. and it swooped down low over the airport, cheers rang out. but the airport was blocked by police and soldiers. it couldn't land. and so this country remains
6:21 pm
in a standoff. there are still two people who claim to be president of honduras. >> ifill: we heard today, for instance, that secretary of state clinton has said that at some point this week she will meet with i guess we call him the ousted president manual zelaya here in washington. is that what you are hearing? >> yes, yes. that meeting is supposed to go ahead tomorrow. and i think that is significant. there is also a delegation from hon dureas -- honduras of congress people and others who support the government, the interim government here. they are on their way to washington today. so it appears that people are talking in washington -- washington. we still don't know how this is going to end. we don't know what the solution is. both sides are really digging in their heels. but there's at least talk going on. and so that's considered a sign of hope. >> ifill: now the interim president roberto
6:22 pm
michelettei said he is waiting for things to return to normal. so what is normal? >> well there is traffic in the streets behind me. offices are open. shopping is going on. but behind that veneer of normalsy there are soldiers outside all major government facilities here there are soldiers ringing the airport. most international -- most if not all international flights have been cancelled. and there's still a curfew in the evening. so things are very tense. the interim government people here are worried about disturbances. and we hear reports of people being detained arbitrarily. yesterday the first one or two deaths happened when the soldiers opened fire. so it's not a countries that's back to normal by any means. >> ifill: well, the burden for this reopening the negotiations, returning to normalcy s it on the oas, on
6:23 pm
the u.s. state department, on the united nations, ecuador, argentina,venezuela, everyone seems involved. >> there are a lot of parties involved but it seems to be the organization of american states that is taking the lead. and washington has said that. washington plays a big role in this country. there's a real big u.s. influence here. many hondurans were educated if in the u.s. historically the u.s. has played a very influence role here. a negative role many people would say. and so the oas is considered the lead negotiator but the o obama administration, the secretary of state will play a very big role in how this standoff is resolved. >> ifill: now there has been talk of prove vacation and rumors of prove vacation -- provo case involving troop movements even that fly over
6:24 pm
from the active president is there anything to back up, especially the idea that another country might be moving toward the border. >> right, right, right. yes, we have heard that. the interim president micheletti said that there are nicaraguans but he later clarified it and said that there are small groups of nicaraguan troops near the border. and it doesn't appear that they're there under any one's orders. and so it's really tough to gauge. the obama administration has said that they are not getting information of any massing of troops. and there isn't a sense in washington that there is any sort of -- any sort of military invasion imminent or anything like that. so a lot of what's going on in this dispute is really trying to influence, is making outrageous claims,
6:25 pm
making exaggerated claims to try to influence the debate. and we're not, i believe, going to see other countries clashing with the honduran military. it doesn't appear to be the case. >> ifill: and one other body talking -- making efforts to influence the debate apparently is the catholic church which has warned zelaya to stay away? >> yes, the catholic church is extremely influential in this country. and church leaders have made very clear that they believe mr. zelaya's return would be an inflammatory act that could provoke people to violence. and the church leaders made that very clear in a televised statement. and the church, the churn has in a sense taken sides in this dispute that has divided hon dureas -- honduras. and we'll see how it plays out. >> ifill: and finally, mark, what is the sense of the
6:26 pm
place today, especially after yesterday's events. does it feel like it's under siege. does it feel as if things are about to turn the corner? or is everyone just waiting to see? >> i think the city appears to me to be fairly calm. there is also a tension behind the scenes and really an uncertainty as to how this is going to play out. there was a protest today of people who support zelaya, the ousted president. tomorrow though it's going to be a fascinating day. supposedly supporters of mr. micheletti are going to take over the streets. they're saying they are going to get a million people which would be unbelievable. but they're planning a huge demonstration. and their point basically is that the people are behind what happened last sunday. that this is not an unpopular change of government. and they want to show that by having people pour into the streets. and they want the cameras of
6:27 pm
the world to be trained not on mr. zelaya but on the people of honduras. >> ifill: marc lacey, thanks so much. >> thank you. >> lehrer: now a prominent newspaper and a story of access, money, and the business of journalism. jeffrey brown has our media unit report. >> reporter: it was an unusual headline, and apology in yesterday's washington post: "a letter to our readers" direct from the publisher, katharine weymouth. the letter was in response to a story that broke thursday in, detailing how the publisher had planned a series of policy dinners at her home. marketed by fliers that offered corporate underwriters access to obama administration officials, members of congress and washington post journalists, in exchange for payments as high as $25,000 per dinner, or $250,000 for a series of 11 dinners.
6:28 pm
three days later, weymouth wrote in her paper: weymouth said the flier was not approved by her or her newsroom editors and did not accurately reflect what she had in mind. "our mistake was to suggest that we would hold and participate in an off-the-record dinner with journalists and power brokers paid for by a sponsor. we will not organize such events." weymouth cancelled the first so- called "salon", which had been scheduled for july 21 with a focus on health care policy. for his part, executive editor marcus brauchli said the original plan had been for the dinners to have multiple sponsors to avoid the appearance that a single corporate entity could control the dialogue. joining me now to look at the washington post situation and beyond: geneva overholser, director of
6:29 pm
the school of journalism at the university of southern california. she's a former editor of the "des moines register" and served as ombudsman of the washington post. and bill mitchell of the poynter institute, a school for journalists in florida. his work focuses on emerging economic models for news organizations. we invited the publisher and editor of the washington post to join us but they declined. geneva overholser, explain what line the post was close to crossing, enough that it cancelled these gatherings? >> well, to me it is important to remember that amidst all the changes going on in journalism, one thing that professional journalists can still offer us is access to people in power. and what makes this particularly unsavory, jeff, in my view s that the post appeared to be willing to sell that access. and they were sort of using the journalists as lure. and it was a kind of a
6:30 pm
defanged version of journalists, even, because the copy said that the conversation would be spirited but not confrontational. which i think is quite undermining for the independence that is so important to journalists. >> well, bill mitchell, the notion of private dinners bringing together washington insiders, there's nothing new there. access, lobbying, friendships between all of the above, nothing new there. so what are the red flags that for new this case? >> well, i think among the red flags as geneva suggested is the price, the notion of paying for access. clearly this is the beginning of what i think we're going to see a lot of in the months and years ahead as news organizations struggle to figure out ways of paying for news. news in the public interest, after all. so i think what differentiated this from a kind of off the record culture that you see a lot of in washington is the idea of a news organization
6:31 pm
charging a minimum of 25,000 dollars to sponsor such an event. very little payoff in terms of the core audience of the news organization, after all. >> i wanted to ask you to continue. you started talking about the larger context. you say we're going to see more of this, that's because of the economic situation of so many news organizations s that what you mean? >> that's true. i think the reality is that news organizations simply will be unable to sustain the level of journalism that they've produced over the years from advertising and circulation revenues. and so as a practical matter it's already happening. news organizations are really pushing hard for new sources of revenue, new ways of reducing costs. >> well, geneva what do you see in terms -- how wide spread a practice is this to reach out and have other events like this? >> well, i think events are going to become increasingly important. i think selling your journalists' access is not, i hope, a prevalent thing at all.
6:32 pm
but jeff i completely agree with what bill said and what you're implying here which is that with the economic circumstances of newspapers so challenging, they're going to have to come up with new source of income. but they're going to have to keep an eye on the public interest. because what distinguishes these terribly important news organizations like "the washington post" from the sort of maelstrom, you know that is going on now in the information world is this credibility -- credibility and reliability. and if they lose sight of the public trust then they'll be losing their best asset. of course if they can't make money, then we'll lose the post and that won't be in the public interest true too. it's a real challenge. >> but continue there, geneva. how do you draw a line between the business side and the editorial side. as you say, it happens for every news organization including our own when we think of taking on new sponsors or working with foundations.
6:33 pm
where is the line and how do you draw that line? >> well, i think you keep a number of things in mind. i think for one thing you have to be sure that all departments in the newspaper are talking to one another. which of course is not true in the old days when you had the so-called wall. but here oddly enough that's part of what fell down. it seems it's a communication among marketing and newsroom and the publisher's office went afoul or at least that's part of what catherine weymouth has said and it sounds like that from the editor as well. another that you really have to figure out what are the old rules that you can let go without anything -- thinking of the principals and selling your access to your journalss is a principal that at this don't think anyone should give up. so and the third one is to be very transparent about everything you are doing. i mean when polit "politico" did the coverage of this story t maim clear it is not anything the post could have been comfortable being open an transparent about. >> bill -- go ahead. >> let me just underscore
6:34 pm
what geneva said in terms of being willing to rethink old rules and practices. realistically we have to do that. but at the same time we have to hang tough with the really important core principals. and i think those principals have to apply to the business side as well as the news side, news organizations. to his credit, the executive editor of the post argued that in this case they had laid out specific parameters. in the end they weren't followed and there was a massive screwup within the organization. but i think the core principals of telling as much of truth as possible remaining as independent as possible, and minimizing harm to as many stakeholders as possible is core. in this case, the posts fell down in all three. and the largest harm, of course, in this case was done to the post-it self. >> well, bill mitchell, some of the questions that were asked or addressed in this incident, for example, were the journalists in some way limited to what they could ask.
6:35 pm
was there one sponsor or issue for some people. was the session off the record or on. are all of these things the kinds of questions you're talking about? i mean are there rules about each one of those things? >> i think there were more guidelines than there are rules. but i think it's pretty clear if you are talking about getting at as much of the truth of any matter as possible that you are not going to set a parameter that there will be no confrontational questions. sometimes and some circumstances to get at the truth, you need to be confrontational. so saying at the outset that there will be no confrontational questions sets a totally inappropriate setting for the involvement of a news organization. >> absolutely. that was one of the least appealing things but i do think it's important to remember that one reason we are all talking about this is that "the washington post" is a news organization with very strong integrity. that we have been able to rely on over the years. not perspect, -- perfect, of
6:36 pm
course. no news organization is perfect but they have owned up. they do seem to me to be confronting the challenges here. and the publisher has said it was a mistake. i think it's important to note that those were in the public interest, those steps. >> and she did, geneva, ms. weymouth, that is, did say in her letter, i do believe there is a legitimate way to hold such event. even as she was apologiseing for this one, she thinks there are ways to do this and has now, i guess, asked internally for some guidelines on how to do that. but that would suggest that we're not -- this is not the end of this sort of thing. people are going to be looking for ways to raise new money. >> absolutely. we want to have newspapers doing things that they would never have done in the past. and i think all of us who have ever edited newspapers are reminding ourselves of some of the rules we had. i would hate to have an ad on the front page. you know, bring them on if they will pay for investigative reporting. but let them be not
6:37 pm
deceitful. an ad on the front page that pays for investigative reporting, terrific. if it is tricked up to look like something else like editorial content, not terrific. it seems to me they're going to be twoette cool underpinnings from here on out that we are going to have to rely on is this in the public interest, does it zferbt public good. and transparency. be completely honest about what we are doing. >> last brief last word for you bill mitchell, does that sound like the two keys to you? >> they do. i add only one other, beyond transparency is that is accountable. we need to let the readers and viewers know what we are doing and be able to justify what we've done. >> thank you both very much. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> lehrer: finally tonight, the legacy of robert mcnamara. he died in his sleep today at the age of 93. mcnamara was the influential defense secretary for presidents
6:38 pm
kennedy and johnson from 1961 to 1968. and he later became president of the world bank. but he was known first and foremost as the architect of the vietnam war. mcnamara himself was skeptical, even pessimistic about america's chances, even while he was executing the war. but he did not reveal that publicly until years later, in his own memoir and eventually in a 2003 documentary called "the fog of war." here's a clip from that film, showing what mcnamara and president johnson discussed privately about vietnam before the 1964 election.
6:39 pm
>> lehrer: in 1995 when his memoir was published mcnamara appeared on this program. robert macneil asked him why he'd waited so long to disclose misgivings about a war that claimed millions of lives including 58,000 americans.
6:40 pm
many people are saying, reviewers, television interviewers, others, that you should have aired your doubts 27 years ago when it might have stopped the war sooner, they believe, and saved many lives. and i bond wler that almost universal reaction these last ten days has made you reconsider the morality of your silence all those years. >> this is going to take a few seconds to -- >> go ahead. >> there are two different problems. hi two fears during my years, '65, 6, 7, 8 as secretary of defense. one fear and i expressed it to president johnson december 1965, was that we couldn't win the war militarily. i said to him at that time and i quoted in the book, there's only a one in three chance or at best a one in two chance to win militarily. he said are you saying we can't win minute tarly. i said yes. however, the second fear was that if we pulled out of vietnam, if vietnam were controlled by the communists,
6:41 pm
chinese and soviets, it would lead to what eisenhower predicted in 1954, the fall of the dominoes. in other words, the fear that if we didn't stand firm, the communist was take control of southeast asia, all of asia and strengthen their position against the west, in europe and the u.s. and i couldn't reconcile those two positions accepting only by pushing for action that would hopefully bring negotiations which would permit military disengagement without losing vietnam. that was the course we were on. >> uh-huh. >> it's a very complicated approach. and it was in the end unsuccessful. >> but i just wonder in the last few days with so many people saying hey, he should have spoken out a long time ago when it might have done some good, have you had any second thoughts about that. >> no, what should i have said. what should i have said that would not have brought aid and comfort to the enemy. i was secretary of defense until december 29, 6y. after that i was an
6:42 pm
ex-secretary of defense. what could i have said that would not have brought aid and comfort. i have no regrets about not speaking out then. i have deep regrets that we ever got involved or that i supported our involvement. and most of all, i want to try to look back on what i think were our mistakes. not all of my negotiates agree they were mistakes. but what i think were our mistakes and draw to draw lessons so we won't make the same mistake again. >> you say you were prompted to write this book because you were heartsick at the cynicism, even the contempt with which people view their political institutions today. how did you think this book might dispell that cynicism. >> i hoped it would explore item leaders did what they did. my associates were properly described in a prejor difficult term, the best and the brightest. they were young young, intelligence -- intelligent, hardworking, dedicated servants. and they were wrong. now i think if our people understand that, then we can
6:43 pm
talk about why were they wrong. how can we avoid similar errors in our future. >> as you document it t it is the best and the brightest that kennedy and johnson could muster year after year, made the mistakes you admit and they refused to listen to their critics to use your phrase were blind prisoners of their assumptions and in the process sent nearly 60,000 americans to their death. would that not confirm or deepen people's cynicism about government? >> no, i think -- i hope what it will do is cause us to examine what happened then. and try to prevent it in the future. >> some perspective now on robert mcnamara from errol morris the documentaryian who made "the fault of war" and deborah shapley, author of the biography "promise and power: the life and times of robert mcnamara" mr. morris to you first. how responsible do you believe robert mcnamara was for what went wrong in vietnam? >> well, he was certainly at
6:44 pm
the apex of that pyramid of power along with lyndon johnson. the two most powerful people in the american government,. >> was mcnamara leading the wrong course or was he setting the wrong course? >> my belief and it is informed by many of these taped phone conversation, conversations between mcnamara and johnson, the characterization of mcnamara as being the chief architect is wrong. to me the impetus for escalation clearly came from the president. >> do agree with that, miss shapley that calling him the architect which i did just a moment ago, in fact, and reporting the story is incorrect? >> i think it's safe to say that they were all in it together, as they say, and that the president's in both cases definitely set the tone. president kennedy and
6:45 pm
president johnson. and as in a sense mcnamara was right, they were prisoners of a mind-set. there's also no question that mcnamara set most of the military policy often over the objections of the uniformed military. so he is an architect in the sense of a strategy at a different level than the whole overall question of whether -- >> in the interview you did with robert mcneil, and other interviews in the memoir and in also in the fog of war, mr. morris's movie the fog of war, a lot of people have said he was contrite. that he was actually apologizing. that's not exactly what he was doing, was it. >> no. he gave the impression in 1995 that he actually felt they were wrong all along. that he would -- he didn't believe it at the time. and that was rather unfortunate impression because it angered a lot of veterans in -- made them
6:46 pm
believe that he had been lying to them all the time. he knew that the war was wrong, et cetera. but in fact, in his actual memos to the president at the time and his record at the time, he kept saying this is going to take longer. we're going to have to escalate. it's going to go on for years. so we're just going to have to slog on. he did not actually recommend a withdrawal. and he himself did not -- government as you know. >> he held that job for seven years, longer than anybody that had that job. >> he held on in the belief that he would somehow be able to control it from getting worse. >> uh-huh. mr. morris what is your view of that. when he said, and it's a direct quote, he said we were wrong. those were "we" he didn't say i was wrong, he said we were wrong, that was the phrase that was used many times. how do you interpret what he meant by "wrong" >> that the policies were misguided. that the whole idea of a
6:47 pm
necessary war in order to prevent communist aggression failed to take into consideration the fact that there was not international communist at work but a country looking to establish its independence. i think one thing that has forgot nen this whole mcnamara story that returns again and again to vietnam is that mcnamara was a person who kept the lid on. that he perceived and i think rightly so that there was an enormous danger of nuclear war. and that his principal job was to prevent that at all costs from happening. i am asked quite often about the relationship between
6:48 pm
donald rumsfeld and robert mcnamara. >> i haven't asked you that. >> you haven't asked me but it's often expressed as these two technocrats, two sides of the same coin. and i like to remind people that when mcnumber ara took office in 1960, he was facing a bellicose joint chiefs. there was the fear of a preemptive nuclear strike against the soviet union. and part of his story is the story of an attempt to control nuclear weapons and to prevent the possibility of nuclear war. >> is your reporting and research that you did for your biography of mcnamara support what mr. morris is saying? >>. >> a gate deal of it. but to come back to why he didn't speak out sooner, he had two arguments. and these were discussions
6:49 pm
that i had with him and also with mac bundy and other advisors. >> lehrer: when he was the national security advisor during that time. >> there were two fears. one was if he went public and said this thing isn't working out t would give aid and comfort to the enemy. you just heard him say that. >> lehrer: right. >> and ho chi minute would have been dancing in the streets. we have redoubled his efforts and there would have been more u.s. guys dead. it didn't compute from the standpoint of someone in the chain of command who had sent these fellows out there to go public and say, hey, boys, i was wrong. the secretary of defense is not the same thing in a position of a journalist or a commentator or somebody stand on the sidelines. he has certainly obligations to those people. which he maintains throughout his life. so he wasn't going to go out and tell all those veterans that he made a big mistake. then he seemed to do it later. another consideration was as errol morris has just said, that the pressures to widen
6:50 pm
the war in vietnam are often forgotten. and as late as 1967 when mcnamara went in august before the senate arms services committee, the pressures from rebellious generals, joint chiefs of staff, even met to make very drastic plans, was to widen the bombing. and it was widely believed in the establishment in and out of government that widening the war, the air war which the general said would solve it would actually draw in the chinese and the russians. and this would be a much far greater danger to everyone's interests than slogging on with the ground war. >> lehrer: moving beyond to the more personal side, the personal side of robert mcnamara, mr. morris, do you believe that there was some personal characteristic, some character flaw or somewhat ever that caused him to do what at least what
6:51 pm
he did was that turned out to be wrong in president conduct of this war? >> well, we all have character flaws. and depending on the context often a character flaw can be a character strength. one of the characteristics of the man at least during the time that i knew him, incredibly fierst loyalty. i think it does did inform that question why didn't he speak out. his loyalty, he said this to me many, many times that he was not elected. he served at the pleasure of the president of the united states. he saw himself very clearly as a public servant. and never forgot that role. i think you are correct to
6:52 pm
talk about these intervening years, the war continued. he didn't speak out. some 30 years passed before the publicationúf of "in retrospect" i think he always saw himself as secretary of defense. that loyalty was with him from the beginning and stayed with him until the very, very end. >> lehrer: do agree with that, do you feel the same thing, did you feel that about him? >> sure, he would not criticize later secretaries of defense. he wouldn't criticize rumsfeld over iraq. he was very deferential and stayed in the role as errol says. but to answer your question, what flaws caused him to make the mistakes, you know, the image that one could now get, even of mcnamara in government, anguished over the possible flaws in the strategy, is really very misleading. he was ferocious against people without disagreed with the strategy. there are many, many
6:53 pm
accounts, for example, of his treatment of roger hillcircumstances sun would be just one example. people who dared to actually question the strategy openly were treated with contempt, told to go jump in a lake. so he was securing the line of continuing the war, escalating, engaging in some bombing. and that this was absolutely essential for the sake of the united states' interests. and that was very of the overwhelming presence of robert mcnamara in government for those eight years. >> lehrer: all right, we're going to have to leave it there. ms. shapley, mr. errol morris, thank you both very much. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> lehrer: and on our >> lehrer: on our website, you can watch all of the interview with mcnamara and the reaction to his memoir from senator mccain and former senator mcgovern. >> lehrer: again, the other major developments of the day. president obama and russian
6:54 pm
president medvedev began a moscow summit. they agreed on a goal of cutting nuclear weapons by up to a third. seven u.s. troops were killed in attacks across afghanistan. it was the deadliest day in nearly a year. and, the toll from ethnic riots across western china climbed to 156 dead. more than 800 have been hurt. on an online- only feature tonight, on our art beat page a look at art and other property looted by nazis during world war ii. jeffrey brown talked to stuart eizenstat, author of a book on the subject called "imperfect justice." here's a sample from their conversation. >> the holocaust was not only the greatest genocide in history it was the greatest theft in history of a whole people's property, personal, communeal of every sort. the art piece of it was by no means random.
6:55 pm
it was very systemic. there was a special division hitler set up called the err division under alfred rosenberg. and they stole, experts believe, up to 600,000 paintings, sculptures and creative arts of which 100,000 remain unaccounted for. >> lehrer: the news >> lehrer: the newshour's journalism is available whenever you want it at we'll see you on-line and again here tomorrow evening. i'm jim lehrer. thank you and good night. major funding for the newshour with jim lehrer is provided by: chevron. intel. supporting math and science education for tomorrow's innovators. and the william and flora hewlett foundation, working to solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations.
6:56 pm
and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions captioned by media access group at wgbh
6:57 pm
6:58 pm
6:59 pm


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on